A document on how to prevent cyber-bullying has been released by the national Māori and Pasifika suicide prevention programme – the Waka Hourua Leadership Group.
Suicide Prevention: The Cybersafety for an Indigenous Youth Population document was officially released this week.
According to Waka Hourua, online bullying has been identified as one of the main reasons why young Māori commit suicide at nearly double the rate of non-Māori.
Mapihi Raharuhi (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Makino) is the Waka Hourua Programme Manager and she says rangatahi Māori are in fact the most vulnerable when it comes to cyber-bullying.
“What we do know from the World Health Organisation's data is that Māori youth have had the highest suicide rate in the OECD. So it's really important for us to be thinking about how do we respond to that. We also know from TPK's last set of data, that our young people are more likely to be on mobile phones.”
And she told Te Karere that there is a close link between cyber-bullying and suicide.
“With the current statistics, Māori rangatahi are more likely to self-harm and (commit) suicide, so we need to be responding to those statistics really effectively and so this document helps to support some strategies around thinking about how we do that.”
Ms Raharuhi said that finding a way for parents to have a conversation with their children and putting measures in place to prevent them from being bullied or preyed on by predators, was an important step.
“We're a ‘ā-kanohi’ people and yet here we have this new medium where it becomes faceless. So, for some of our whānau we also need to raise the awareness around how do we respond to the issues of cyber-bullying and how they can have these conversations with their rangatahi.”
The chair of the group, Emeritus Professor Tā Mason Durie, said the document will provide a basis for groups, agencies, parents and whānau to find ways to advocate for improved cyber safety programmes for indigenous populations.
“There is a need to address the mental health implications of bullying and cyber-bullying in regard to the person on the receiving end and the perpetrator,” he said.
“These innovations could include interactive pamphlets, cyber safety websites and video developments that have the involvement of whānau alongside their young people.”
Tā Mason believes the goals of indigenous rangatahi (young people) and their parents should be at the heart of any strategies that are created.
“Indigenous rangatahi and their parents are major stakeholders in this process so their aspirations will need to contribute to the development of strategies that keep tamariki and mokopuna cyber safe.”
Ms Raharuhi said Sir Mason and other experts in the field are leading the charge to champion Māori youth suicide prevention.
“Tā Mason is the chair of our leadership group alongside well-known kaimahi who've been in the Māori suicide prevention space for a long time. So he leads and guides the activities that we do within Waka Hourua and one of them is definitely responding to the data telling us that young people are more likely to be bullied in the cyber space.”
“As technology progresses in the lives of young people, we must strive for effective strategies so young people know where to go to for support if someone harasses them online.
“We also need to ensure whānau is involved so the young person is not alone and is protected from harmful acts from others,” she said.